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Charts or Plotters? Will Paper Survive the Digital Age...

Discussion in 'Electronics' started by CaptNeil, Mar 10, 2009.

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  1. CaptNeil

    CaptNeil Member

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    I just finished putting all the routes I have accumulated onto a software program. The program is pretty neat in the fact that it can be downloaded onto a gps, it has all the charts in one place, and it is easy to use. It also stores all my notes of the ports that I will enter. The notes include all the marinas the I have stayed in, the ammenities and facilities offered as well as all my notes on the inlets and waterways that change yearly. In addition I store friend and contact info for each area to keep up to date invaluable local knowledge. Basically I have created my own travel guide. On transports I usually carry with me a laptop and 2 portable gps units. I have a garmin 478 that is great for both marine nav and street nav wherever I go. I have a second gps unit that I can hook up to the laptop to use as a backup to my portable.

    I also always bring with me all the paper charts of the areas that I will be travelling. For years I have accumulated routes and my own personal log book that has all the info above that I need to move safely from one place to another. The paper charts already have my routes plotted out from previous trips and personal notes on what to avoid and where to stay. I don't think I will ever get rid of these. I grew up learning navigation with a parallel ruler, dividers, watch and compass. With all the innovations in modern electronics these tools seem to be going the way of the dinosaur. I still don't think that I would ever leave without them though.

    My questions are: Do you think that at some point we will no longer use paper charts and tools? Will they at some point be a novelty on board, just some sort of decoration or will they always have a place on board?
  2. AMG

    AMG YF Moderator

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    Well, as long as we are depending on just one satellite system, we would need paper charts. When we later may have three independent satellite providers and some sync to our electronic charts, maybe we could trust them...
  3. YachtForums

    YachtForums Publisher/Admin

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    Maybe I'm old school, but I certainly hope not. Yes, technology has simplified our lives (you don't really believe that, do you?), but I'm not ready to release my rolls. Is it a PITA to find the right roll in the rack? Yes, but when I'm faced with a vast body of water and nothing on the horizon at a blistering 18 knots, what else do I have to do?

    I still love reading charts, especially sectionals. I'm probably a minority, but I like using my brain to plot a course, time and distance. It's not rocket science, but it puts my gray matter to work. In the end, maybe I'll have more gray matter when it really matters.

    There are three constants; death, taxes and things break. I think it's a mistake to become too dependent on electronics. This is why I have a baseball bat near my computer.
  4. Capt J

    Capt J Senior Member

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    We will never go away from paper charts. It is the only form of chart that the USCG approves for navigation. I have seen MANY MANY chartplotters that showed the boat way off of where it was in the channel. I have seen 100's of chartplotters show the boat on dry land at different points in time. I always do my trips with paper charts and plot them from a paper chart. I do use a chartplotter as a guide, but do not count on one.
  5. PropBet

    PropBet Senior Member

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    So long as there are computers (which fail regularly) and satellites (which fail periodically) there should, and and always will be a need for paper charts aboard.

    I'm like Carl, I don't mind using my brain once in a while. I can actually sit and look at charts for hours. Just looking, pondering, measuring, plottong, simply for entertainment value.

    While I love to embrace new technology, there always needs to be a contingency plan. Paper doesn't fail.
  6. Fishtigua

    Fishtigua Senior Member

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    GPS and chartplotters are so useful but I'll always have my charts out too.

    A young hi-tech Mate used to spend hours inputting data into his laptop for a trip, while I spent about 3 minutes with a pencil, rule and dividers (a bit of a cheat really, I can just about quote from memory waypoints from USVI to Venezuala).

    Out in the South Pacific in the late 80's, SATNAV and Omega were as cutting edge as it got, we used to get a fix about every 16 hours. Charts were so important but so out of date. Most charts used today were done by the Royal Navy over 200 years ago.

    I used to sail with Don Street, who helps make the Imray range of charts for the Caribbean and writes the cruising guides. I'm also friends with Chris Doyle who writes the other cruising guides. With Don we used to go to places no one will ever go, just to see if we could. Now that is commitment, with no engine and only a leadline for help.

    I have now learned that the tech-heads hate it when you go across the laptop screen with a pair of dividers to prove a point.

    Paper is quicker.
  7. Codger

    Codger YF Wisdom Dept.

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    There is something about the process of using and plotting on paper maps that creates some sort of a linkage in the brain when it comes to situational awareness, that does not occur when passively watching a plotter or GPS driven moving map.

    Try drawing out a route on a street map sometime and you'll probably find that you hardly even need to refer to it while enroute. In technology we trust? Yes, just blindingly following it in to the ditch.

    Of course if you don't use maps and end up driving a boat on to the rocks or landing the plane on the wrong runway or even at the wrong airport, you can always blame the government and their faulty technology. Your insurance company, the CG or the FAA will buy that reasoning won't they.
  8. K1W1

    K1W1 Senior Member

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  9. NYCAP123

    NYCAP123 Senior Member

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    One thing not mentioned: If you range out enough to cover the distance between far apart waypoints you lose the detail (which could be a rock) and that catches a lot of people who forget to recheck the course line ranged in.
    Another that was touched on: Practice thinking. Have you noticed what happens if your bill at a store is $16.36 and you give the clerk $20.36 after they've punched in $20. The look of bewilderment would be comical if not so sad.
  10. K1W1

    K1W1 Senior Member

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    Hi

    NYCAP- It's all about scale.

    You wouldn't normally use a chart of all the North Atlantic to go from FLL to GIB would you? That is a voyage that could certainly have two waypoints.

    Just as with paper charts you have to have the ECDIS Chart set to a scale that suits the operation. In coastal work you could well be on two or more paper charts in quick succession, they might be a different scale- There is just as much room for error using them like this as there is electronically.

    Another point is Chart Corrections, the bane of the 2nd Mates Job. These are downloaded and the Electronic Charts are corrected mid voyage if an important change has occurred.

    These Charts are very clear especially when viewed on a monitor over 22", plus you can have your own navigational data and other vessels AIS info overlayed on the chart so you know exactly you and others are in relation to the land, traffic separation and any hazards to navigation.
  11. NYCAP123

    NYCAP123 Senior Member

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    Ah, for a world full of 22" monitors, especially that aren't split 3 ways. In coastal running it's all about detail. More than once I've seen yachts heading from Charleston to Hilton with their plotters ranged out too far to see the shallows when you cross from Tybee Roads over to Calibogue Sound. Also, many plotters don't have constant updating, but my paper chart does. And I've had my screen go blank just enough times that I think I'll keep my personal GPS & my paper charts handy.
  12. Ken Bracewell

    Ken Bracewell Senior Member

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    A good ECDIS will also check this for you based on permiters which you set (range to obsatcles, minimum depth, etc.)
    I tend to soley use ECDIS (coupled with diligence and constant visual confirmation via radar and depth) when we are coastal cruising and then use paper charts for plots when we are out of sight of land.
  13. K1W1

    K1W1 Senior Member

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    Hi,

    NYCAP- How does your paper chart have constant updating?
  14. NYCAP123

    NYCAP123 Senior Member

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    Me...based on my personal observations and reports from other captains and certain local knowledge sources. You know, the old fashioned way. ECDIS is a wonderful tool, but it hasn't made it into my world yet. Besides, I'm too much of a control freak to turn my life over to a bunch of wires, which is why I was glad to see Ken add "(coupled with diligence and constant visual confirmation via radar and depth)" as I'd expect him to. Unfortunately too many people forget that part. That said, I'll be happy to add ECDIS to my arsenal when it gets here, but I think I'll still keep my papers handy.
  15. Loren Schweizer

    Loren Schweizer YF Associate Writer

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    IIRC, Don Street yanked the motor out of his "Iolaire" so that greater quantities of Heinekin could be laid down... which would also indicate how incongruent a NavNet would have been on that vessel.
    There may also be some truth to his numerous corrections to British Admiralty charts (and acknowledged by thems in charge of that) which, for some years, never found their way onto those charts.
    "GIGO" is apparently not a recent phenomenon.
  16. Fishtigua

    Fishtigua Senior Member

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  17. K1W1

    K1W1 Senior Member

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  18. Pascal

    Pascal Senior Member

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    paper will and should remain a nice back up on most boats. Like everything else, you need to understand the limitations of the tools and equipment you are using.

    i've almost never ran into situations where the plotter was off in a situation where it would really make a difference. Sure, one in a while, a chart maybe a little off and the boat is shown on land. but that's always been when you woudl be using your eye balls to navigate... ex in a river or in the ICW... it doesn't matter if you're using paper or plotters, you're looking at markers, landmarks, etc...

    for instance, every boat i've taken into Bimini was shown 100 yards onto south bimini. So what? down there you're using your eyes, nothing else... so who cares?

    in a true navigation situation, plotters/GPS eliminate most of the human error element (plotting the position on the chart).

    I will always have paper as a back up, but GPS is darn accurate when it matters
  19. NYCAP123

    NYCAP123 Senior Member

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    A couple of years ago I brought a boat down to Lauderdale whose Northstar unit kept blanking out. Last spring a friend was coming from Ocean City, Md. to A.C. in the fog when his unit took a dump. Paper came in real handy in both of those situations.
  20. dainisk

    dainisk Member

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    This is an often discussed topic around many a barnacle bar!

    Perhaps I'm just getting old, but I can often read a document on a computer screen and not notice mistakes. It's only when I print the document with the intent of handing it over to a client, let's say, that I notice some glaring errors, typos, etc.

    The same with charts. It's only when you have a large sheet of paper in front of you, can you have (what someone said in an earlier post) situation awareness.

    I purchased a Raymarine chartplotter (running Navionics charts) a little while ago, and have been amazed at the accuracy of both the chart on the screen and the plotted position. However, knowing how the electronic charts are made (i.e. someone manually tracing a government issued paper chart) that I have always been wary when traveling in unfamiliar waters.

    Just this past week I finally came across exactly such a situation. I was planning a route traveling down the western coast of Australia and found that I needed to have some intermediary waypoints in order to miss some rather hard lumpy bits of Australia. I do all my route planning on paper and then transfer the waypoint coordinates to the plotter which I then tend to use for the actual pilotage. After entering the waypoints and running a check of all the routes, I noticed that the electronic charts did not show these lumpy bits. Whew! I also found later that a few lateral marks did not show on the screen as well.

    Consequently, the old adage then says to never rely on only one means of navigation rings very true. Electronics can be a fantastic guide and tool, but don't rely on it alone.